Hiking Fiasco

Since my last post walked you through Bible Journaling and potentially gave the impression that I am all sorts of put together, I thought maybe you deserved a little “Real Life” broadcast from the “not my best decision” archives.

Jake and I have two dogs, Walter (6 years old) and Nala (7 years old). For the purposes of the story I’m about to tell you I feel that it’s important for you to know that we got these dogs separately in college and Walter was Jake’s dog. That’s only important for the sake of my pride. You’ll understand later.

Since I’m a teacher and it’s summer, I have more free time than usual. My parents also got a lake house a few months ago and this is our family’s first summer with it. So far, everyone is loving it. I’ve been taking every opportunity I can to take the dogs to the lake and let them run around and swim. They love it.

One day last week, Jake was gone for one night for work. I took the opportunity to spend the night at the lake with my mom and my two younger sisters. We decided to hang out on the water that day and then spend the next day hiking to Kings River Falls. It’s a beautiful 1 mile hike alongside a creek in the woods that ends at a falls area with a pool perfect for jumping off the falls and swimming around in. It was only an hour’s drive from the lake house and we thought it sounded fun.

*Spoiler alert* It wasn’t.

sister smores
Me and my sisters, Anna (left) and Jami (right).

Originally, my plan was to leave Walter and Nala at the lake house while we went to the falls. My mom also has a German Shepherd named Roxy who is only a few months old and she decided to bring Roxy on the hike. I felt bad leaving Walter and Nala alone for the day in an unfamiliar house while Roxy got to go have all the fun. Also, they’d never been left alone in the lake house before and I was a little concerned as to how they would take being cooped up in a strange place for that long. So, I decided to bring them.

This was a massive, colossal, huge, enormous (what other synonyms are there for “big”?) mistake. You see, Walter is an anxious dog. Very anxious. He is super sweet and is the best cuddle buddy a girl could ask for, but high stress situations kind of freak him out. Sometimes they cause seizures. That’s why I originally considered leaving him and Nala at the house. But he had been behaving so well recently. He’d been handling being off the leash at the lake with flying colors and he had even met a lot of new dogs (they all kind of roam around down at the lake) and hadn’t freaked out at all. He hadn’t had a seizure in a long time and he seemed to be chilling out in his old age. I really thought that other than barking at passing hikers, he would be fine.

Dogs B&W
Walter is on the left and Nala is on the right. He does love to cuddle.

I’m sure you’ve figured it out by now…but I was very wrong. Don’t worry. I’m getting there.

dogs me and walter 2

Jami and Walter cuddling on the couch.

That morning, we loaded up my car with 3 dogs and 4 ladies. We were packed in pretty tight – and by “we” I mean my two younger sisters in the backseat with the dogs. Mom and I were up front.

dogs in the car
Walter likes to sit in your lap. Nala and Roxy were in the back trunk area.

We put the address we found online into our phone GPS and headed on our way. At first, everything was going well. We were jamming to “Feel It Still” by Portugal the Man and everything by Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars. We were having fun. About an hour in, right when our GPS showed that we would be there pretty soon, we turned down a dirt road. That made sense, considering we were going on a hike. But then the GPS said we were there and it was very clear that we weren’t. We rerouted it and tried again. It led us down about 30 more minutes of dirt roads in the middle of nowhere. We started to worry that maybe our GPS was a bit off. Not to mention, I was down to less than an eighth of a tank of gas and I was starting to get seriously concerned that we were going to end up stranded in the middle of “Deliverance” with no gas.

I swear we heard banjos.

We stopped once when we passed an older woman turning out of her gravel driveway (one of the most shocking things about the trip was how many people lived out in the middle of BFE. They must’ve spend a fortune regularly replacing their tires. These gravel roads were no joke). We asked her if we were on the right track and she said we were. That made us feel better until about 15 minutes later when we were still lost on dirt roads. We’ve all seen Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Who’s to say that woman wasn’t part of the murder ring, covering up her grandson’s psychotic need to skin unsuspecting women trying to find their way to a pretty waterfall?

Yeah, our thoughts turned dark and morbid pretty quickly.

Thankfully, we finally found the place. It was nothing but a small dirt parking lot off a dirt road with a sign indicating the trailhead.

I think it goes without saying – based on my description of the drive in – that this place was basically deserted. There was no one else on the trail and no other cars in the parking lot. We were alone, which was good because that gave my dogs less to bark at.

The trip started to make an uphill turn. The hike was beautiful and short enough not to wear us all out too much. We made it to the falls and they really were gorgeous. The water was a few degrees short of an ice cream freezer, but hey, we hadn’t walked all that way for nothing.

dogs on hike
Nala likes to lead the way.

We made it to the pool and since we hadn’t seen anyone the entire hike, we decided to let the dogs off their leashes.

The mistakes just keep piling up.

dogs at the falls

dog pooping on falls
Roxy photobombed this picture…but it most accurately sums up how the rest of the day went.

Not 10 minutes after unhooking the dogs, my mom spotted a woman walking down the trail…with her dog. Walter, Nala, and Roxy do fine meeting new dogs, but we still didn’t want to push it without leashes. So, I called Walter and Nala back to me. Mom got Roxy, and it seemed like everything was going to be OK. None of the dogs had noticed the newbie and I had a good grip on Walter and Nala’s harnesses.

Then Walter saw him. The other dog. He must’ve had some kind of smell or something because Walter reacted like that dog was the Texas Chainsaw killer. He freaked. And in his freaking, he caused the other two dogs to freak. Walter is quite the trendsetter.

He twisted and slipped right out of his harness – like he knew he could do it all along and just liked giving me the illusion of control – and he bolted up the hill towards the dog. Recognizing that he was a bigger threat at the moment than Nala, I let go of her and ran after him…up the rocks…in a bathing suit…with no shoes on because I had been getting ready to swim.

Of course Nala followed and beat me up the hill. Mom was doing her best to hold on to Roxy. If you’re wondering where my two sisters are and why they aren’t helping…so was I. They were basically standing there drooling. Useless.

Walter was standing there barking and growling at this poor dog. Nala was barking her encouragement. The woman was handling it like a champ. Thankfully, Walter didn’t hurt the dog. He was mostly just loud, obnoxious, and scary-sounding. I dragged him away and that calmed Nala down a bit. I had my arms wrapped around Walter when I heard my mom yell, “Ya’ll go HELP HER!!!” She sounded pretty pissed, but I think she was tired of watching the drool and just wanted to make sure my sisters actually did something instead of just standing there like bumps on stumps. One thing we learned that day, Anna and Jami are useless in a crisis.

When I finally had some help, I was able to get Walter and Nala back in their harnesses. The woman took a minute to stop and talk to mom, she was incredibly understanding (which I am thankful for) and she took her dog down the creek a ways. Honestly, if we had given it a few minutes we probably could’ve done a better job introducing the dogs and they would’ve been buddies, but after all that, we were all too traumatized to enjoy the falls any more. The whole trip had been nothing but trouble and we decided to call it.

Apparently the drive in wasn’t as much of a deterrent as we thought, because at that point everyone and their freakin’ mother decided to come to Kings River Falls. The dogs were all shaken up, so of course Walter and Nala barked incessantly at every single person we passed on the hike back to the car. Then, the same woman and her dog started coming up quickly behind us. I guess they also decided not to stay too long. Thankfully, I had turned my head to say something to my sister behind me and I saw them, so I had some time to prepare. Most of the trail was narrow enough that you had to walk down it single file, but we were coming up on a wider area. I pulled Walter and Nala over to the edge of this area, gave Nala to my sister, and preemptively wrapped my arms around Walter’s chest. He’d already proven that holding on to the harness was not going to cut it. He was licking me and enjoying the hug at first, then the dog – who was guilty of nothing but minding his own business – walked by.

We had passed other dogs on our way out, and our dogs had all barked, but that was it. Walter only reacted like this with this one dog. I don’t know why, the dog was nice and well-behaved. There was nothing about it that was threatening, but nevertheless when it walked by again he started struggling to get away from me. He took my feet out from under me and I ended up on the ground with Walter in a choke hold between my legs. People walking by probably thought I was a crazy person. I certainly felt like a crazy person.

I managed to keep a hold of him this time and from there on out we made it to the car without any incidents. We also managed to make it back to civilization with minimal effort in spite of the fact that our phones didn’t have service and we couldn’t pull up directions and the fact that we were basically running on fumes instead of gas.

Needless to say, I will never bring Walter anywhere ever again. He is just too anxious. He hasn’t hurt any dogs or people ever. He loves people and for the most part he loves other dogs. Something about this one just made him freak out for some reason. See Walter? This is why we can’t do fun things. He is a loving, gentle dog. His only flaw is that he is fiercely protective of his people. I don’t know why he felt like he had to protect us from this dog, but that’s all he was trying to do.

Overall, the entire trip was a huge fiasco. I ended up with a scraped knee from the rocks and a bruise from wrestling Walter into a headlock. My youngest sister spent most of the car ride home making WWE jokes…

We didn’t laugh then because it wasn’t funny yet. Now, maybe, but I still get angry at my stupid dog every time I think about it. Of course then he curls up in my lap on the couch and falls asleep and I swear no one could stay mad at him. He’s just too adorable.

Dogs Walter in pontoon



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Courtney Livingston

The Smart Girl's Guide To Surviving Her Twenties

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